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Yep . . . that point again. What to do next – which way to follow – which project to start/re-start.

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But it feels all right this limbo stage; I’m not suffering from the blank page thing, more a need to concentrate on one idea at a time. Hoxton, the novel I’ve been working on for a couple of years, is now being looked at with a regard to some possible action happening, agent -wise, and the follow-on book, Smithi, is finished up to serious editing point.

So where to go while I’m sort of . . .  waiting for the possible action. I’d quite like to spend some time putting my various blogs into book form – being someone who imagines the Net could just evaporate at any point; then there’s several follow-up book ideas beyond Smithi; a story about souls; a story about cryogenics, and my latest idea – to develop one of my short stories into a novel. So far this one is winning and I’ve started on a few chapters – an interesting exercise and perhaps good to get away from London 2070 – the place and time my mind has largely inhabited for the last few years.

 

 

 

Finished? Nah . . .

Well, possibly, or at least certainly moving in the right direction.

 

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Latest version of the manuscript being sent off with its own aged map of the East End and foreword by Jake the Prophet.

I found what I think was ‘draft six’ this morning while having a shelf clear-out – a slim-ish volume of about two hundred pages. I can just about remember thinking when I unwrapped it, fresh from ‘Aunty Lulu’, ‘Yup, reckon this is the one’ . . . then ten minutes later finding about fifteen faults and knowing the whole process will have to start again. It usually takes about a day to settle in, this realisation; a slight gloom drifting over me until the ‘sorting it out’ urge kicks in and I’m away again, happily typo-hunting and adding/subtracting needed and un-needed chunks of prose.

 

It’s an odd (and some would say lonely) thing, writing, not just the actual pen to paper, digit to keyboard but all the other stages: rounding up a rampaging idea, rough drafts, fairly solid-looking spiral bound manuscripts, a trial copy, re-writes, BIG edits, small edits, typo edits, adding chapters, etc. But in the later stages when people really start reading and commenting, adding useful thoughts and sometimes suggesting vast deforestation (a tad disturbing at the time but usually 99% invaluable)  it becomes less of a lonely occupation and more of a team effort. Recently I’ve had some excellent help; suggestions that made me wince a little at the thought of the amount of manuscript archaeology that would be involved, but it’s all good stuff, brain-flexing, writer-muscle building and laying down work practices for the next tome . . .

On the same dust-ridden shelf, I also found my first ever (or at least one that Mum kept) story book. Written in pencil (and coloured pencil!) in a khaki-green school exercise book, this particular tale describes a crocodile eating a small boy – with a correction by Mrs War (I still remember her, with fear) for not using the past tense of eat.

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Mixed Bag

Or book contents.

I’ve finally rounded up six of my short stories into a book format. I was originally going to write to a theme – make collections of stories about certain themes: Landscape or love; travel or horror, etc, but it hasn’t happened thus, my influences and ideas being a very mixed bag themselves.

So now on the last (hopefully) edit and onto the next bag, or book of tales.

 

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Dog, and other tales will be available at The Wirksworth Festival during readings of my novel Hoxton on the 13th of September. For anyone within reach of Wirksworth, Derbyshire, the festival and art trail are well worth attending.

Link: http://www.wirksworthfestival.co.uk/the-festival

Cats Like Plain Crisps

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somebody’s cat – sorry not sure whose, or whose image but we don’t at present have a cat to photo, with or without crisps

At present I’m re-editing my short stories with a view to making them into a ‘collection’.

What to call the book? one of the titles perhaps? or something random; something to encapsulate the wandering, miscellaneous subjects . . .

As sometimes happens, my brain (and I assume with most other peoples’) suddenly decided to present me with a curious phrase I haven’t recollected for about forty years. Cats Like Plain Crisps.

The whole figment came back to me – complete in every detail:  1974 or so, Mum driving round a roundabout in West London in the aged Hillman Minx; me in the back staring out on a grey, sleazy day after a school holiday spent in the Hovis-ad-like countryside of Dorset.

Mum, negotiating the rush-hour traffic and probably saying ‘bugger off’ to other motorists, failed to acknowledge this wonderment of graffiti – hand sprayed in large black letters on the blank end of a house, but I obviously logged it away for use forty years later.

Except . . . that it’s actually quite well documented. I checked on Google and there are images of the writing, not of the wall I had seen, but other walls, and on bridges, and padlocks, even. Apparently the first ever ‘Cats like plain crisps’ was scrawled on a kitchen wall in a Grosvenor Rd squat, Twickenham, and then reproduced possibly by the same wonderfully-deranged person in other areas of West London.

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Oh well, just another 40 million words/phrases to choose from . . .

Weasels Dislike Chamber Music?

 

 

Audio story

I love them: Dickens, Dorothy L Sayers, Bill Bryson, Jake Arnott, etc; listened to over and over, and will be again, no doubt . . .

Now I have one of my own – my words, the ones I wrote, edited, dreamed about and swore over . . . so amazing to hear them narrated by such a talent as Anton Lesser.

Thanks Cracked Eye! Great site of stories, artwork, audio, films . . .

 

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The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth book, read by Anton Lesser, now out on Cracked Eye 

Mad Dog café

Finally after months of editing and faffing I again pressed the Lulu – ‘go ahead’ button and the third in my trilogy was formed and pressed into book shape. Behold, said Lulu, now you can really get down to some serious faffing . . . four edit copies later I couldn’t stand it anymore and signaled ‘that’ll do’ to myself and anyone listening in the house — dogs, I expect. So it arrived, copy five and despite spotting a missing ‘to’ somewhere, so far it seems . . . alright. Well, people have read it and said it’s more than alright, so calmness pervades until the next editing task: Hoxton.IMG_3990 

Mad Dog Café is out on Amazon along with the other two books. No 1 available on kindle and other readers, 2 and 3 to follow shortly.

An extract from The Mad Dog Café. 

Jasper wandered back outside and looked at the swaying palm trees.

    He must have appeared close to breaking point as someone standing next to him chose to ask him as much.

    “Hey, dude . . . where you goin’? You don’t look like you know.”

    Jasper turned to see a young dreadlocked man, gazing at him with large brown eyes, almost black; the dilated pupils telling of a happy drug- induced state.

    “I’ve really no idea,” replied Jasper, truthfully.

    “D’you want to share a ride to a cheap place to crash?”

    Christ, no, but . . . “Yes, sure . . . but will there be a room?” Jasper waved a hand at the hapless crowds.

    “Yeah . . . no problem — he’s always got rooms.”

 Heaving an ex-army knapsack onto his back, the guy swayed off to the taxi rank.

    The third taxi reluctantly stopped in front of them. The owner pinged the boot lid and gestured for them to put their luggage in it, staying firmly put in his seat.

    “Watch the upholstery,” he growled, as they got in the car.

    “Relax, I’m house-trained, man,” grinned Jasper’s new friend, “Silver Palace Motel, downtown.” The taxi driver nodded knowingly and they sped away.

    In a perfect world, Jasper would have been brought a ladder and some paint. He would have rested the ladder against the Motel’s sign, climbed up and re-written it for them: ‘Fetid Hole Motel’, or something similar, but then in a perfect world he would be at home in bed with Darren.

    Sighing, he contributed to the taxi fare and contemplated the exterior of the building under the dim light of the one street lamp.

    It was possibly the most vile place he had ever stayed in, or was about to stay in. Sandwiched between a fruit wholesalers and a place strewn with parts of trucks, the building seemed to be in a state of collapse at one end.

    The dreadlocked-guy smiled manically: “Hey, it’s real cheap.”

    Jasper followed him into the dark reception area and they waited. After a couple of minutes a wheezing hulk of a man appeared from a back room and nodded:  “Williams, right? And you — you sharing? Don’t care, don’t mind fags.”

    “Well, I was hoping you might have a spare room?” Jasper asked, suddenly feeling terribly English, square and law-abiding.

    The guy looked at a dog-eared book: “I got one, in the condemned end, but it’s OK, we got scaffold poles up — it’s not going nowhere.”

    “Great,” said Jasper with mild sarcasm, “I’ll take it.”

    “Meet you for a beer in the courtyard, ten minutes?” called Jasper’s friend as he disappeared down an unlit corridor.

     Jasper headed off in the direction indicated and thought about the word courtyard: a small marble square, the peaceful sound of water from a fountain, doves, climbing plants? Probably not.

    The word sleazy suddenly had a whole new list of meanings attached to it as Jasper opened the door to his room. A million cigarettes must have been sucked into lungs; a thousand desperate fucks against the worn headboard, extra-marital, illicit, illegal and far, far worse. He put his case down and sat on the bed, which sagged alarmingly. Yes a beer was imperative — many and sod the consequences. 

    The courtyard might have once been quite attractive in the early 70s; now it was a dusty concrete space filled with scabby tables and chairs. The pool was empty with a sign chain-linked across the metal handrail of the steps: closed for refurbishment. A few semi-dead plants pleaded for water.

    Jasper sat down and waited for his companion.

    He arrived, now dressed in shorts and a T-shirt with the letters: Don’t piss with me. Death is only a bullet away, emblazoned in friendly orange letters on the front.

    “Nice T-shirt,” remarked Jasper.

    “Yeah — the Grimmer Reapers, saw them in concert here last year. They’re supposed to be on again at the festival, but dunno, with all the power cuts . . . might be axed.”

    Jasper nodded and thought of sitting with Peter at a nice, calm piano concert in Perpignan. God he was so homesick.

    The sweating owner appeared: “Beer?” and disappeared again at the nod of the dreadlocked head.

    “Bird,” said Jasper’s friend and held out a hand.

    “Sorry?”

    “My name.”

    “Oh . . . I see. Jasper, hi. And thanks for helping me.”

    “No problem, man. Room alright?”

    “Yeah . . . fantastic. Great view.”

    “You like fruit, then?”

     What the fuck? “Er . . . ” It crossed Jasper’s mind that Bird had a sense of humour. “Oh, yeah, ha-ha, and dismembered trucks.”

    “Cheap though, uh?”

    “Yes, very.”

    The beers arrived.

    Jasper up-ended the bottle and two thirds went: “Ahh.”

    Bird was busy rolling an impossibly large joint. He finished it triumphantly with a twist of the white, fragile paper; applied a lighter to the end and drew hard, eyes closed, brow furrowed.

    “That’s real great.” He passed it to Jasper, his voice gruff with the smoke. “Here . . . the best, grown by my little brother in New Mexico.”

    It was a long time since Jasper had smoked anything, but as his brain was crying out for temporary oblivion, this appeared to be the perfect answer. He sucked in the pungent smoke and spluttered — vile, but then again, maybe not. A couple of drags later and the rest of the beer gone, his knees felt soft, all tense muscles relaxed and mind empty except for the image of a huge gull grinning. White teeth: teeth? “Ha-ha-ha.”

    “What’s funny, man?” smiled Bird, sleepily.

    “Grinning bird, teeth . . . shit . . . was is that stuff?”

    “Told you — it’s the best.”

 

 

Just once more

Ed-ited /checked by Kate and Mark 15/1/2012

Re-checked by Ruth, corrections made 19/02/2012

Re-checked by Kate and the computer 21/02/12

Re-checked by Kate 26/08/2012

Look for Claire’s corrections.

Re checked by Kate 16/09 2012

Rechecked by Kate and partly Ed 2/11/2012

Rechecked by Kate   30/10/2012

Rechecked by Kate  5/11/2012

Edited with Gill   2/2013

Final Edit 17/3/2013

Further final edit 20/3/2013     81,472 words.

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It’s incredible: I just thought I would take one final little tiny look . . . just to check the margins, and there was a word, a smallish word. Susan. Who the Hell’s Susan?. When I had I ever put Susan in the book? Never that I could remember. Margaret had briefly become Susan.

I changed it and had another quick scan.

He walked over window. WHAT? Don’t you mean: He walked over to the window? But of course I did. How many times have I, (and countless other extremely kind and patient) people, read that sentence and not noticed the absence of those two words?

Maybe just once more — tomorrow.